Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

09 Jul 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the strength of Hamas in Gaza, how ISIS gained a foothold in Egypt, the presence of Islamist groups in the Sahel, and the threat of extremists to the Philippines peace process.

We also highlight commentary and analysis on threats to the power of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Boko Haram's influence in Chad, the challenge of regulating madrassas in Pakistan, and the complicated history behind the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Top Stories

Hamas: Having been threatened by ISIS, Hamas has started to crack down on Salafi groups in the Gaza Strip. Mubaraz Ahmed looks at its origins, its ideology, and how it continues to operate in Gaza and further afield.

Egypt: Egypt's Sinai region has witnessed a gradual escalation in levels of violence since 2011, mainly at the hands of the ISIS-affiliated Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Peter Welby explores the factors behind the group's rise.

Middle East & North Africa

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia's operations in Yemen, largely focused on countering perceived Iranian influence on its doorstep, are distracting from domestic security issues. Daniel Wagner and Giorgio Cafiero explore how jihadi sympathisers and a rise in sectarianism are giving the Saudi leadership cause for concern.

Egypt: The recent assassination of the Prosecutor General and the killing of 12 members of the Muslim Brotherhood by security forces have further exacerbated the standoff between the Brotherhood and the government. The longer this schism continues, the more unstable Egypt is likely to become, writes Omar Ashour.

Iraq: In the battle against ISIS, the Iraqi government underestimates the extent to which deep-rooted mistrust between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities is hampering its efforts, argues Nussaibah Younis.

Yemen: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is under unprecedented attack, recently losing its leader of nine years to a US airstrike. But the greatest threat is posed to it by the rise of ISIS in Yemen, with commanders defecting and a growing battle to prove ideological purity, writes Gregory Johnsen.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sahel: A new International Crisis Group report finds that government structures and patronage networks in the Sahel create fertile ground for illicit and Islamist groups. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the main points.

Nigeria: Boko Haram killed nearly 200 people over the last weekend alone. John Campbell looks at the context of these attacks and explores why the group may be increasing its activities and area of operations.

Chad: Of the regional forces combatting Boko Haram, the Chadian military continues to be one of the most involved, and has suffered an escalation of attacks on its territory as a result. Vice News investigates the impact the group and the military offensives have had on Chadians and refugees.

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: Radicalisation in Pakistan's madrassas has long been a cause for international concern, but efforts to regulate them have often been stillborn. Unless proper resources are devoted to regulating and providing alternatives to madrassa education, extremist indoctrination in the country will continue, argues Dania Ahmed.

Afghanistan: Peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban are making more progress than they have for some years. But obstacles remain, write James Dobbins and Carter Malkasian, including that so long as the Taliban is achieving battlefield victories, it is unlikely to commit wholeheartedly to negotiations.

Bangladesh: The death of the Bangaldeshi secular blogger Avijit Roy demonstrated the violent ways in which extreme Islamist ideologies can manifest themselves in a secularly governed country. Nick Cohen argues that recent events suggest that Islamism is prevailing as freedom of speech continues to be subdued.

East & South East Asia

Philippines: There is growing unease in the Philippines as the long-awaited peace process for Muslim Mindanao stalls once again, amid fears that Islamist groups linked to ISIS could disrupt it, writes Anthony Measures.

Myanmar: The plight of the Rohingya Muslim community of Myanmar has captured international attention, but Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat argues that the issues are more complex and longstanding than simply religious and ethnic persecution by the Burmese government.


Russia: After missing out on the capture of Magomed Suleimanov, the leader of the so-called Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, in 2014, Russian forces have been fixated on pursuing him and his fellow leaders. This has led to Russia missing the development of a much more serious threat, in the form of an ISIS affiliate on Russian soil, writes the Economist.

UK: The revolutionary change that social media has brought to communication benefits friend and foe alike, including potential extremists. Alex Krasodomski-Jones explores how in 2015, terrorism has become a digital phenomenon.


ISIS: ISIS has been demonstrating its claim to a 'global' caliphate by acknowledging the allegiance of franchises from Afghanistan to Nigeria. But other than its affiliates in Egypt and Libya, it may not actually have that much influence over their actions, suggests the Economist.

Fragile States Index: The multiple pressures that are put on states, whether social, economic or political, must be understood to put into context the role that religion plays in conflict, writes Nate Haken.


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